Villains United sees the Countdown to Infinite Crisis series back on form in the capable hands of Gail Simone. Despite featuring a raft of DC Universe villains the average comic reader probably won’t recognise – with the exception of Lex Luthor and a few cameos from bigger names – Simone manages to build a coherent structure around a significant cull of minor evil characters.
The basic premise is that Luthor is looking to build a league of super-villains with the direct aim of taking down the superheroes once and for all, using the unheroic actions of the superhero fraternity in Identity Crisis as a draw to pull his unruly mob together. He has a surprising amount of success too, but six villains say no, and are thrown together by Luthor’s promise of extreme consequences. Luckily, a mysterious figure lurks in the background to help them, but who is he and what are the six’s real motives?
Simone weaves a web of wicked intrigue, clearly enjoying pitting evil against evil, especially in an environment relatively unknown to superhero comics, whereby characters have the means, motives and carte blanche from the publisher to actually slaughter one another. This isn’t a blood bath by any means, but there’s a real feeling by the end of this book that a lot of these guys might not be popping up again any time in the near future.
Eaglesham and Semeiks do a grand job of pulling all these characters out of relative obscurity, launching them at each other and illustrating the resulting carnage. Their style is generally uncomplicated superhero fare, but the detail creeps in when called for and both artists keep the story rolling at a break-neck pace.
Superhero stories remain one of the mainstays of comics and graphic novels, but that doesn’t mean they have to be crap. When it comes to the crunch, Villains United is never going to set the literary world on fire, but then it’s hardly intended to. Instead it’s a solid piece of genre fiction that’s entertaining and packed with action. And how often can you read superhero stories that feature an army of super villains with nary a hero in sight?
Other titles in the Infinite Crisis series: